Train fares rise by average of 2.6pc, but some see bigger hikes

Greater Anglia passengers will see a fare increase. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Greater Anglia passengers will see a fare increase. Picture: Stuart Anderson - Credit: Archant

Rail fares for Greater Anglia train passengers have gone up by an average of 2.6pc from today – and some season ticket holders in Norfolk have seen even higher increases.

Greater Anglia fares are increasing by an average of 2.6pc. Picture: Rick Findler/PA Wire

Greater Anglia fares are increasing by an average of 2.6pc. Picture: Rick Findler/PA Wire - Credit: PA

And the increases come against a backdrop of anger among passengers, who have had to endure a month of delays and cancellations.

Some of those who were most affected by the problems caused by the signalling issues are those who are having to pay the biggest increase for tickets.

People buying an annual standard pass from Norwich to London from today will see the cost increase by more than £200 from £8,424 to just over £8,600.

Daily walk-on fares are increasing by between 2.6pc and 2.8pc.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps. Pic: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

Transport secretary Grant Shapps. Pic: Hannah McKay/PA Wire - Credit: PA

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But Norfolk Anglia Plus tickets will be increasing beyond the 2.6pc increase.

The annual version of the ticket, which is used by commuters who travel from places such as Lowestoft and Sheringham to Norwich, has gone up by 5.8pc.

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The weekly ticket has increased from £54.30 to £57.50, while the annual ticket is going up from £2,172 to £2,300.

The Sheringham to Norwich line was one which was most badly affected by the signalling problems in December.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

That caused major disruption, including cancellations and delays, while major checks were made on new trains which Greater Anglia had introduced.

There were also problems on the main line between Norwich and London, with the much vaunted Norwich in 90 services frequently running late.

The price increases are in line with the rises to "regulated fares" - those approved by the Department for Transport.

They affect season tickets and off-peak fares bought on the day of travel.

Commuters will be paying more for train tickets. Pic: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Commuters will be paying more for train tickets. Pic: Rui Vieira/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Most advanced-purchase fares, which are not regulated and can be lower for most journeys, are not affected by the increases.

The Greater Anglia increase is just below the average 2.7pc rise across rail operators.

A Greater Anglia spokeswoman said: "Our average fare increase is just under 2.6pc, however we have frozen some of our ticket prices, including all of our advance fares which start from £6 and can be up to 60 to 70pc cheaper than walk-up fares.

"The increase applies to government regulated fares, such as season tickets and anytime singles and returns.

"We need to apply this increase, as many of our costs will increase by at least 2.8pc in line with inflation."

Rail companies have to keep their overall rise to below the 2.7pc inflation rate, but individual fares can exceed that so long as they are offset by other lower fares.

Fares on East Midlands Railway services will increase by 2.6pc.

The fares are set by the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies and Network Rail, with the rises are based on the Retail Price Increase in July.

At a council meeting last month, Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group on Norfolk County Council, had called for the fare increase to be frozen because of all the issues which Greater Anglia passengers had to put up with in the run-up to Christmas.

And fewer than half (47pc) of passengers nationally are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to the latest survey by watchdog Transport Focus.

David Sidebottom, director of watchdog Transport Focus, said: "After a year of pretty poor performance in some areas, passengers just want a consistent day-to-day service they can rely on and a better chance of getting a seat."

He urged passengers to "offset the cost of the fare rises" by claiming compensation for every eligible delay.

The Department for Transport is due to set out reforms of the railways in a white paper.

That paper will respond to recommendations of the government-commissioned Rail Review led by former British Airways boss Keith Williams.

It was due to be published in autumn 2019, but has been delayed until this year due to the general election.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "This government will improve the railway system to ensure the focus is always on putting passengers first.

"This commitment begins with the launch of innovative fares trials, to help explore the benefits and costs of a clearer, more flexible and fairer fares system."

The annual increase in rail fares is always controversial.

- Why does the cost of train travel increase every year?

It has been the policy of successive Governments to switch the burden of funding the railways from taxpayers to passengers.

- How much more expensive have train fares become?

Office of Rail and Road figures show that between January 1995 - around the time the network was privatised - and January 2019, average fares increased in real terms by 21pc.

This year's rise is 2.7pc.

- When are fares increased?

Prices rise on the first working day of every new year.

- Who decides how much they go up by?

Increases in about 45% of fares are regulated by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments. The rest are decided by train companies.

- Which fares are regulated?

Season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and tickets for travel around major cities at any time are regulated.

- How is the cap on the rise in these fares calculated?

Most rises are pegged to the July Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was 2.8pc.

- Where does the money go?

The Rail Delivery Group says 98p of every £1 spent on train fares goes towards running and maintaining services.

- Is there any way of avoiding the fare rise?

Savvy commuters renewed their season tickets in the days before Thursday's increase.

- Any other tips on limiting the cost of train travel?

Passengers can save money by getting a railcard, travelling off-peak and booking in advance, although these options are not available for many journeys, particularly those made by commuters.

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